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Drugs not genes cause birth defects in babies of epileptic women

Sarah Boseley, health editor


Thursday April 12, 2001


Birth defects in the babies of women who take medicine for epilepsy while
they are pregnant are caused by the drugs and not by the epilepsy, according
to new research reported in the US.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine today, claims
that the idea that the genetic abnormalities which cause the epilepsy are
then passed on to the foetus, is wrong.

Lewis B Holmes and his colleagues from the paediatric service of
Massachusetts general hospital, in Boston, say it is the medication which is
to blame for the children's defects.

Since the 1970s it has been recognised that women taking the drugs most
frequently given to prevent epileptic fits, have a higher risk than usual of
giving birth to babies with certain malformations, such as abnormalities of
the face and fingers, and retarded growth.

The Massachusetts team examined 316 babies born to women who had taken
anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy and 98 babies of women with a history
of epilepsy who had not had the medication.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
Standard anti-convulsant medications include Dilantin (phenytoin),
Tegretol (carbamazepine), phenobarbital and Depakote (divalorex
sodium). Most of these drugs are used in the treatment of psychiatric
‘disorders’ as well. Were they to be used by a pregnant women their
teratogenic—birth defect causing—potential would be the same, this
study tells us, as when used by women being treated for epilepsy--
convulsive disorders. Epilepsy is rarely ‘familial,’ or certifiably,
genetic. Epilepsy—convulsive disorders, unlike psychiatric disorders,
are real diseases. Not a single psychiatric ‘disorder’ is a real
disease. This being the case it can never be contended that the
psychiatric disorder itself poses a physical risk of any sort. This
being the case, we must ask if it is ever justifiable to have a normal
pregnant woman or any normal person on drugs bearing such real physical
risks. But this is the question presented with all psychiatric drugs
for all psychiatric diagnoses—none of them organic diseases—despite the
lies of Surgeon General David Satcher and psychiatric/pharmaceutical
industry to the contrary]

They compared the babies with 508 other babies whose mothers did not have
epilepsy and had not taken medication while pregnant.

They found that the babies of women who had taken drugs for epilepsy had a
much higher rate of birth defects - 20.6% of infants exposed to one drug, and
28% of infants exposed to two or more drugs in the womb. This figure compared
with 8.5% of those having birth defects and mothers who had taken nothing.

[Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD:
—time after time the pharmaceutical industry via their bought and
paid for ‘researchers’ of medical academia publish, short-term,
statistically insignificant, bogus studies, claiming that one and all of
their drugs are harmless for pregnant women and their embryos and
fetuses. They are shameless, caring not the rates of injury and death
as long as the public perception is that "their drugs are harmless for
pregnant women and their embryos and fetuses." Refer to leCarre his
warning about Big Pharma, and be warned that there is almost no such
thing as an independent, unbought physician who can get away with
telling you the truth.]

Women with epilepsy who had not taken drugs in pregnancy were no more likely
to have a baby with birth defects than women who had no history of the disease.

The research poses a big dilemma for women with epilepsy, as stopping the
medication would put some women and their unborn babies at risk of damage
from seizures.

A spokeswoman for the British Epilepsy Association said it might not always
occur to GPs to raise the issue with their female patients. "But it is really
important for all women with epilepsy who are planning a family to go and
seek specialist advice beforehand so that the medication can be looked at and
then possibly changed," she said.

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